Today on December 9, 1854, Lord Tennyson’s publishes his famous narrative poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade.
Lord Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson, was the Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland during the reign of Queen Victoria. Today, he is still one of the most popular and respected British poets of all time. Among his many works, The Charge of the Light Brigade remains as his most famous. Lord Tennyson’s poem commemorates the lives of six-hundred brave cavalrymen who recently died during the Battle of Balaclava. The battle was one of the central conflicts of the Crimean War between the Russian Empire and Britain, France, Sardinia and the Ottoman Empire. On October 25, 1854, the two armies clashed on a battlefield near Balaclava in the heart of the Crimea region.
During the climax of the battle, Lord Cardigan suddenly ordered a regiment of 600 light cavalrymen to attack a heavily defended Russian position. In reality, they were ordered to charge against a recently captured gun position, a task well-suited for light cavalry. However, a miscommunication among the officers caused the order to be misinterpreted. Instead, the brigade launched a direct frontal charge against a well prepared heavy artillery unit. Cardigan and his men managed to reach the battery and disperse some of the gunners. However, the brigade quickly retreated after sustaining many casualties. The blame for the miscommunication remains controversial. The officer who delivered the written orders died within minutes of the charge.
Following the battle, Lord Tennyson became immediately inspired after hearing the story of the light brigade. He decided to write a poem to commemorate their lives. He emphasizes the soldiers' bravery in carrying out their orders, regardless of the outcome. Any experienced soldier would have indeed recognized the foolishness of the attack. While the Russians did not destroy the brigade, they did inflict terrible losses. In total, 118 men died, 127 wounded, and around 60 taken prisoner. Just six weeks later, The Charge of the Light Brigade was published in The Examiner.